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Stop Purchasing Our Product

The letter from Apple arrived via snail mail, itself a worrying sign, and  began ominously:

Your household efficiency rank is in the bottom quartile and declining.  You are spending more money on apps, purchasing more music, and using more bandwidth than your neighbors.  Our data show that you also have more Apple products in your household than is typical in your area.  

Please log into your account at LessAppleForLife.com for customized tips about how you can save money by reducing your demand for Apple products and services.

Why would Apple admonish its customers for purchasing too much of what it is in business to sell?  

It wouldn’t.  Neither would Google, Facebook or Twitter.  Yet each month my neighbors employed by these enterprises and I open a report like the one at right from our local energy utility.  The idea is to shame us into conserving energy by comparing our consumption to that of “more efficient” households in our neighborhood.  

Purchasing less is absolutely essential.  To save the planet, don’t you know.

However, it’s not so simple.  In typical left-wing fashion, saving money in my neighborhood first requires “investment” in a money-no-object ecologically advanced dwelling of the sort dancing in the heads of Greenpeace executives on Christmas Eve.  In short, a low energy bill hereabouts is another way of telegraphing, simultaneously, that you are very, very rich, and also incredibly caring.

My Silicon Valley neighbors overwhelmingly favor deterring consumption, except when it comes to the products and services responsible for their own considerable financial success. 

  1. Crow
    MitchellM:  Water and power aren’t like usual products; there is ahard system limit. Peak demands can tax these systems to the breaking point and new resources are scarce and expensive. 

    I can certainly understand this with regard to water–there is a natural cycle there and drought conditions etc can affect supply. In such a case demand must be adjusted accordingly.

    With regard to electricity, however, public utilities and local governments have long been in collusion to limit supply. We could be resolving these scarcity issues by building more conventional power plants, or by building more nuclear plants. Instead, our governments and utilities have decided that these options aren’t green enough–and therefore have regulated their building almost to extinction meanwhile funneling monies from the public fisc to politically connected green energy groups that make a bucket-load while their products routinely fail to deliver.

    Saving energy can save me money, so I’m happy to turn the heat off when I leave the house. But let’s not pretend that we can’t affect the supply of electricity.

  2. Xennady
    Crow’s Nest

    With regard to electricity, however, public utilities and local governments have long been in collusion to limit supply.

    I think you’re giving utilities a bum wrap. I know of examples of utilities attempting to build new supplies but were stopped lawsuits or green-lobby funded local opposition.

    I blame the government, and more specifically the people who run the government- the left.

    I think they are mortified that Americans are able to use so much electricity, water, gasoline, etc- and want to stop it. Since people are generally not receptive to arguments that go, ” we despise you and want you to shiver in the dark like peasants should” the left has managed to come up with something different.

    That is, “we heart efficiency and you should too”. But just wait. When everyone has an electrical “smart meter” that can measure usage in real time if you exceed your miserly ration of electricity you’ll be cut off. 

    So people will read these efficiency ratings with rapt attention, attempting to keep the lights on as long as they can.

    Welcome to Obamaland, folks.

  3. John Walker

    Unintended consequences can be so delicious.

    Starting on January 1st, 2012, the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel where I live instituted a volume-based tax on garbage.  The only garbage bags which will be picked up are specially marked ones which sell at a substantial premium: the 60 litre bags I use cost CHF 3.40 each (about 3.65 Yankee greenbacks).  These bags collected in my region end up at an incinerator in the commune of Colombier, which produces heat for homes in the vicinity.

    Well, as soon as the bag tax went into effect, the amount of garbage arriving at the incinerator dropped like a rock, and has not rebounded.  The volume is insufficient to heat the homes they’re contracted to supply, so the incinerator has had to import garbage from adjacent cantons to meet the demand.

    An article about this in the newspaper contained a subhead, “Taxation Changes Behaviour”.  Who knew?

  4. ctruppi
    John Walker: Unintended consequences can be so delicious.

    Starting on January 1st, 2012, the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel where I live instituted a volume-based tax on garbage.  The only garbage bags which will be picked up are specially marked ones which sell at a substantial premium: the 60 litre bags I use cost CHF 3.40 each (about 3.65 Yankee greenbacks).  These bags collected in my region end up at an incinerator in the commune of Colombier, which produces heat for homes in the vicinity.

    Well, as soon as the bag tax went into effect, the amount of garbage arriving at the incinerator dropped like a rock, and has not rebounded.  The volume is insufficient to heat the homes they’re contracted to supply, so the incinerator has had to import garbage from adjacent cantons to meet the demand.

    An article about this in the newspaper contained a subhead, “Taxation Changes Behaviour”.  Who knew? · 10 minutes ago

    Yeah, macroecon 101, who knew?

  5. Donald Todd

    George Savage:  In typical left-wing fashion, saving money in my neighborhood first requires “investment” in a money-no-object ecologically advanced dwelling of the sort dancing in the heads of Greenpeace executives on Christmas Eve.

    In an obtuse kind of way it may be that these people are trying to save us from the hefty price increases we’ll be seeing as Obama drives up the cost of electricity.  It may be a kind of self-defense because we’ll blame the local power generator instead of the real culprits, Obama and his EPA and whomever else he has seconded to drive up costs while he dismantles the economy.

  6. Give Me Liberty
    ctruppi

    John Walker: An article about this in the newspaper contained a subhead, “Taxation Changes Behaviour”.  Who knew? · 10 minutes ago

    Yeah, macroecon 101, who knew? · 12 minutes ago

    Good thing you have all those really smart people in government making these decisions for you.  Gaia only knows what kind of shape you would be in if, as free people, you were allowed to come up with solutions for yourselves.

  7. Johnny Dubya

    Others have touched on these points, but as someone who used to be involved in lending to utilities, let me contribute my two cents. Indeed, electric utilities are not like other businesses. They do not want their product to be consumed to the point of scarcity. They are heavily regulated and are allowed only a stipulated return. They maintain a base load capacity (preferably fueled by coal or nuclear) and a prudent (again, regulated) amount of peaking capacity (usually fueled by natural gas or, in the case of ConEd in NYC, oil). A utility, in concert with the regulators, tries to ensure system reliability and adequate capacity, particularly in the summer. An important part of this is demand management, of which the customer notices are a part. In time, when smart meters are in place around the country, such notices may not be necessary, because customers will be freer to choose how much energy they consume, when they consume it, and at what price.

  8. Valiuth

    Just wait until the government sends you a report like this about the food you eat. 

    Also why do you get your energy bill through the mail. How antiquated. I get mine through e-mail, but I don’t open them with any regularity because I have an auto billing setup. I just check my bank statements to see what I am paying. 

  9. The Mugwump

    I’ve been working lately on solar systems, a sort of part-time gig for extra cash.  Most of our clients are wealthy liberals.  The boss is currently bidding on a solar array that will provide power for a Nissan Leaf.  Makes about as much sense as building your own gas station for a customer base of one.  But then what we’re really selling is the equivalent of medieval indulgences.  I should pick up some clerical garb.  Or make my own costume?  Something that looks like a cross between a witch doctor and an ent?    

  10. Scott R

    Bet Apple recommends we consolidate all those wasteful Apple products into a single, new, efficient, do-everything Apple product.  

  11. Pigboy

    There’s another facet to this as well: here in the northwest—where power is plentiful and cheap—our demand can and will exceed supply, at which point the utility has to purchase additional supply on the open market. Since the feds have determined how much profit the utility can make on its customers (as well as what percentage of the energy they produce and purchase is “green,” i.e., way more expensive), the utility’s best bet is what they call “demand-side management.” Basically, that’s just trying to limit consumption to capacity.

    Bottom line? Blame the feds, not the utility.

  12. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.

    Much of this discussion is missing the real underlying problem: the fact that public utilities are heavily regulated monopolies that cannot adjust their prices in accordance with market forces.

    We’ve had several droughts around here in the last few years, and I always roll my eyes at the measures the municipal governments put in place to reduce consumption. Complicated schemes like allowing people to water their lawns only every other day, or banning the washing of cars. In a sane world, the utilities would simply raise the price of water, and like magic, consumption would drop. But they can’t do that; they’re constrained by rigid price regulations, which pretty much guarantee shortages.

  13. Rachel Lu

    Wow, we get those notes, but they never mentioned Apple products! I don’t lose sleep over them. We spent our money on having kids instead of putting up solar panels. Sorry.

  14. R. Craigen

    We get these from Manitoba Hydro too.  It is notable that Manitoba has the cheapest electricity rates in North America.  We have surplus production and are bringing more online (we do sell to the U.S., so it is justified).  Since our power is 100% hydroelectric (except a backup Natural Gas plant and a few small wind power arrays) there is essentially no connection between usage and any of the yucky scary waste products dumped into the environment.  I’ve always thought this was silly.  The main reason (here in any case) to conserve is financial.

  15. George Savage
    MitchellM: While this sort of thingseems like a no-brainer slam dunk, it’s not. It’s…complicated. I work in at a water utility and we’ve sent out the same kind of notices. Water and power aren’t like usual products; there is ahard system limit. 

    Paraphrasing George Gilder, free market capitalism produces abundance while statism results in scarcity.  The liberal project is all about using coercive state power to manage scarcity from the demand side.  

    And where there is insufficient scarcity at the start, as in automobile fuel in the past and, currently, health care, the statists find ways to crimp supply and nudge the market into their comfort zone.  Never let a “market failure” go to waste!

    Yes, water systems are different from online app stores.  I get that.  However, here in the land of crazy, the last major reservoir was constructed in 1979 while the population has increased by 14 million since then.  Conservation is fine and dandy–as are imaginary 2025 SUVs with 55 mpg EPA ratings– but what about unleashing the supply side?  

    Cap-and-trade and our new 30% renewable energy mandate won’t do it.

  16. George Savage
    R. Craigen: We get these from Manitoba Hydro too.  It is notable that Manitoba has the cheapest electricity rates in North America.  We have surplus production and are bringing more online (we do sell to the U.S., so it is justified).  Since our power is 100% hydroelectric (except a backup Natural Gas plant and a few small wind power arrays) there is essentially no connection between usage and any of the yucky scary waste products dumped into the environment.  I’ve always thought this was silly.  The main reason (here in any case) to conserve is financial. · 10 minutes ago

    It is fascinating to note that your community exploits the only commercially practical form of base load solar power–the water cycle is a remarkable thing–and yet environmentalists largely oppose hydro–bad for the fish.

  17. R. Craigen
    George Savage

    R. Craigen: We get these from Manitoba Hydro too.  It is notable that Manitoba has the cheapest electricity rates in North America.  We have surplus production and are bringing more online (we do sell to the U.S., so it is justified).  Since our power is 100% hydroelectric (except a backup Natural Gas plant and a few small wind power arrays) there is essentially no connection between usage and any of the yucky scary waste products dumped into the environment.  I’ve always thought this was silly.  The main reason (here in any case) to conserve is financial. · 10 minutes ago

    It is fascinating to note that your community exploits the only commercially practical form of base load solar power–the water cycle is a remarkable thing–and yet environmentalists largely oppose hydro–bad for the fish. · 2 minutes ago

    They say it is bad for the fish.  An argument can be made that the disruption of new production is.  However, Fish stock adapt.  Destroying a Hydro dam (and its fish ladders) would create a similar disruption, and fish would adapt again over time.

  18. Mendel
    George Savage:  Yet each month my neighbors employed by these enterprises and I open a report like the one at right from our local energy utility.  The idea is to shame us into conserving energy by comparing our consumption to that of “more efficient” households in our neighborhood.  

    To save the planet, don’t you know.

    Interestingly, I have heard through the grapevine that another way many utilities can help the environment is by not letting their pipelines explode and needlessly burn off gas into the atmosphere for several days.

  19. George Savage
    R. Craigen They say it is bad for the fish.  An argument can be made that the disruption of new production is.  However, Fish stock adapt.  Destroying a Hydro dam (and its fish ladders) would create a similar disruption, and fish would adapt again over time. · 6 minutes ago

    I am with you.  The leftists select any plausible argument as a tactic to support the long-term strategy of less and more:  less individual liberty and more government.  Low cost energy and widespread prosperity are not good things from this perspective, so any argument will do.

  20. MitchellM

    While this sort of thing seems like a no-brainer slam dunk, it’s not. It’s…complicated. I work in at a water utility and we’ve sent out the same kind of notices. Water and power aren’t like usual products; there is a hard system limit. Peak demands can tax these systems to the breaking point and new resources are scarce and expensive. And then you have governments limiting price increases and / or demanding they use increasing percentages of “renewable” sources. Which are expensive and usually require federal government subsidy. Conservation helps stretch resources. But…it certainly can also hurt revenue. It’s a delicate balance, not easily negotiated. It’s not always about “saving the planet”, sometimes it’s just “being able to function reliably”.